It's All In Their Heads
by Bill Bilodeau

Our intrepid columnist surveys the politcal landscape from an (ahem) unique perspective.

"...the runt of the presidential litter."

Let me just say this, right off the bat: Size matters.

I'm speaking, of course, about politics. It's true. There have been studies that show the tallest candidate in a race has the best chance of victory, and I can tell you from first-hand experience that in newsrooms across the country, journalists -- those paragons of virtue and intellect who largely dictate the issues (healthcare) and positions (squatting) that shape the political landscape of our fair nation -- are laughing themselves silly every time they even think of the phrase "President Gary Bauer."

It's not because he's not intelligent; he surely is. It's not because his views on how Americans should live their lives are slightly to the right of Benito Mussolini's; they are, but lots of people think that way. More than anything, it's because he's vertically challenged, inauspiciously heightened, the runt of the presidential litter. There hasn't been a successful politician who was really short since the mayor of Munchkinland (and he only got elected through the support of the Lollipop Guild).


Think about it. What kept Michael Dukakis out of the White House? Not Willie Horton. Not Kitty's drinking or the fact that he had what would have been the funniest-sounding name for a president since, um, well, you get the idea. No, it was the Dudley Moore factor. It was the goofy picture of Dukakis, wearing a helmet, peering out the turret of a U.S. Army tank, looking like Dudley Moore or a little kid trying on his dad's hat.

Now, Ted Kennedy, another Massachusetts would-be president once upon a time, who also had an alcoholic wife, would have done fine in the helmet and tank. Why? Because his head is HUGE! He has enough head for two people. He looks like a Saturday-morning cartoon of a famous adult -- adult head on a tiny child's body.

I saw Kennedy at a political breakfast (scrambled eggs, bacon, broiled red potatoes, coffee) about eight years ago. He's not particularly tall, although tall enough. His aides, of course, were very large, and it was hard to see him at first. Then the group parted, and this enormous gray-haired head popped out and started speaking in that caricature of a New England accent.

I realized then that his head made him seem larger than life, more impressive than those around him. I think this makes a difference.

"...the chance to share a restroom with possibly the next leader of the free world."

Now, of course, we are once again in the grip, or maybe the throes, of political fever. This fever, or fervor, has swept the nation over the past two months. At least, it's swept New Hampshire, Iowa, and a few other states that have already held their primaries and/or caucuses. Anyway, this heightened political season has given me an opportunity shared by very few of my fellow Americans: the chance to share a restroom with possibly the next leader of the free world.

It's true. My latest political brush with fame came on the job, where I am an editor at a small daily newspaper in New Hampshire. Although it had nothing to do with my wanting to be here, I'm told working in such a place is something almost all serious journalists envy for exactly this reason -- potentially standing shoulder to shoulder (or, more accurately in my case, shoulder to elbow) with the likes of Bill Bradley.


During their New Hampshire primary campaigns, I met with Bradley, Al Gore and John McCain, who all visited our paper to get their positions across to our readers. Bradley was, by far, the most impressive. Being an ex-college and professional basketball player, he was also the tallest. During his visit, he spoke at length in our conference room. Afterward, I visited our smallish men's room, only to find Bradley taking up most of it (pit stops are sometimes few and far between on the campaign trail). If you think he looms large during TV debates, you really must see him in a tiny bathroom.

Gore's visit was also impressive, but for other reasons. Because he's vice president, he's accompanied everywhere he goes by bomb-sniffing dogs and people-sniffing Secret Service agents. When he visited, he took the time to shake hands with virtually everyone in the building, which was very friendly and warm. He changed from his business suit to casual clothes in one of our interview rooms (okay, our only interview room), which had been co-opted by his people the day before. They put in a new phone line that we suspect was a direct line to the White House (although at an early-morning meeting in the room that day, none of us had the balls to call. I wonder if Bill or Hillary would have answered?).

"Ha Ha!"

On that topic, the other great race going on now in American politics is, of course, Hillary's bid against Rudy Giuliani for a New York Senate seat. On this topic, I can only say, as someone born and bred in the shadow of Boston (we are bred to despise all things New York): Ha Ha! New Yorkers are going to be stuck with one of these losers no matter what!! This is great! I hope Hillary wins and Rudy stays as mayor and you're stuck with BOTH of them!

Besides, I think her head is bigger.


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